Here's the last excerpt from Homeless. It goes live next week. Thanks for following along!

About Homeless:
Humanity has been decimated by a violent new species that nests in any enclosed spaces, and slaughters everything unfortunate enough to come indoors. Mitch is a 'Wall Banger', an explosives expert who 'cracks' buildings, exposing them to air and sunlight to kill these invasive organisms. When a friend of Mitch's asks for help tracking down a murderer, Mitch recruits Cori, a 'Shadow Runner' who races through infested spaces to gather supplies and saleable loot. But this terrifying contagion isn't the only danger, as their world descends into a harrowing marathon against oversupplied militias, murderous gangs, self-righteous survivors, and all-out starvation.

Homeless, Part 1

Homeless, Part 2

Homeless, Part 3

Homeless, Part 4

“My wife’s charity, however vicarious, might have saved me. Because I do not believe my rations would have lasted this long. Now, I survive by the charity of my neighbors. They give me food, and water, because they pity me. But one by one, they up stakes, and head west, where the food grows easier, and the weather's less miserable. I’ve had a few offer to take me- for pity, again- but I couldn’t leave.” He looks at the home again, and sighs.

“She's still in there, my Josephine. I... I try not to think about it, but she's been in there long enough that there's hardly anything left. Bones, and skin, perhaps. The muscle, and sinew, all of that will have dried up. I try to remember that, but in my mind, I see her, sleeping peaceably on the floor, preserved. And I’ve wanted more than anything to be able to bury her.”

“You can't go back in,” I tell him, because I know he needs to hear it.

“I know,” he says, but I can tell he’s going to need more convincing.

“Tent’s done,” I say.

“But that’s the problem, isn’t it? I can’t even prepare my own shelter anymore. I’d have been swearing at that thing another half the night, before I gave up and crawled beneath the tarp. I haven’t been a man in a long, long time, hiding in my front lawn. I can't even bury my wife.”

I’ve lost this discussion before, and I’m desperate enough not to lose it again that I tell him, “I’m a wall-banger.”

“Good old Harveys,” he says. “But I haven’t any money- not even in the house.”

“I’m not offering my services for hire- just… offering.”

He spends all of a few seconds pondering it over. “I’ve gotten too used to the idea that our home is my wife’s mausoleum- and too used to the idea that it’ll one day be mine- to desecrate it.”

“There are other places. Better places. Safer. With food.”

“And people to help me put up the tent?” he asks me, with a clever old smile that tells me he knows the answer already.

“I’m an old man. And even if this better place was a Shangri-La, I would still age, until one night I could not assemble my tent at all. And I would die of exposure, shivering and alone- only more so for having abandoned my wife and our home.”

“Don’t,” I plead with him, “not tonight. Come the sunrise you’ll feel better.”

“I don’t,” he says. “We used to watch the sun rise together, my wife and I. My neighbor says that’s the best part of sleeping outdoors- waking with the sun every day. But for me, it just reminds me, it’s another day without my Jo- another day I don’t goddamned want.” He sniffles, but he straightens up, and that’s when I know I can’t save him.

I could hit him over the head, and drag him away, even to another city, and strand him there. But he’d find his way back, or maybe even just slit his wrists. And the end might well be the same, but he’d be a dead man I robbed of his last wish, and his dignity, so I don’t stand up.

“You can shuffle off, if you like. It’ll be noisy, I understand- not easy to listen to. I… remember the sounds of that night- and I wouldn’t wish them on another soul. You’re welcome to the tent; you went to all the trouble of raising it, and someone might as well sleep in it tonight. And thank you, for the chat. I know it might not be ending on terms you might have preferred, but… I think, perhaps, I simply didn’t want to die alone. It’s… a terrible burden to heap on a stranger- so please, don’t feel compelled to stay. But it was nice, having someone to say goodbye to. Mitch,” he nods at me, and even smiles.

Then he walks to his front door, fumbling in his jacket for keys. It’s been long enough since he’s done it that he’s not sure which pocket they’re hiding in, and it takes a good deal of patting before he finds them. When he does, he smiles to himself, and unlocks the door. He steps inside and says, “Honey, I’m back.” Then he closes the door and bolts it.

A moment passes before he screams and dies. And if that was the last I heard from him, I'd have thanked a good lord. But I hear it, the sounds of them tearing at him, first ripping through his garments, with the occasional thrust carrying through his flesh. Then his tendons snap, making a sound like overburdened rope as it breaks. Maybe that god isn't all bad, because at least Lionell doesn't have to live through this part.

My blood is up, after that, and I know it will be all but impossible to feel safe tonight, particularly here. But I haven’t laid out my own tent, or cultivated my own fire, and I can already feel the cold in my bones. So I crawl under the tent, and wrap myself in blankets that smell strongly of an old man’s aftershave.

It’s not the first night I’ve lain in a dead man’s bed, and I’m not naïve enough to believe it’s the last.

Check back next week for another excerpt or join my mailing list to be notified when Homeless is available for purchase.
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Published on February 11, 2014 08:30 • 460 views • Tags: coming-soon, new-release, post-apocalyptic-horror, survival-horror

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